Restaurant Spotlight

Ring in the New Year with French Food from La Cote d’Or Cafe

New Year’s Eve celebrants may still have time at La Cote d’Or Cafe for a cup of kindness yet to ring out 2021 with a special prix fixe dinner for $75 and, if New Year’s reservations are closed, there’s always the daily “twilight prix fixe” dinner next year for $25.


Northern Virginia Magazine named La Cote d’Or as a Top 50 restaurant this year, and having once enjoyed its food, guests will know why.


On New Year’s Eve, merrymakers will begin their culinary ecstasy with “amuse bouche,” complimentary appetizers of devilled quail eggs, cheese crackers, and peaches wrapped in prosciutto. (No a la carte items will be available Friday.)


Next, customers will choose from hors d’oeuvres (ranging from salmon caviar to duck foie gras “en basket”), then, one of six entree choices (Chilean sea bass, “incompliant” beef Wellington, venison, veal, vegetarian, or branzino filet) and finally, a dessert of “Pavlova Romanoff” (mixed fruits and cream) or “Poire Belle Helene Velvet” (with pears, dark chocolate mousse, fruit sauce, and vanilla ice cream).


Earlier this month, my friend, Mary, and I rushed to LCD to take advantage of its “twilight prix fixe” ($25; available from 5 – 6:15 p.m.) which Chef Jacques Imperator called “the best deal in the world.” I must agree, especially compared to a salad (a salad!) at one of McLean’s better-known restaurants which last summer charged $25 for mostly lettuce.

For the twilight special, Mary and I settled on hachis Parmentier and Toulouse sausage, wintertime “comfy” foods.


Each was excellent, but my favorite of my three-course meal was the beet salad with vegetable slices, orange, onion, garlic, and mesclun salad in a vinaigrette, the total experience to die for. (Well, almost.)


My hachis Parmentier (the French version of shepherd’s pie) came out in a single-serve iron skillet with the traditional beef, mashed potatoes and Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, and despite its great taste, I was encumbered by a (small) piece of coconut cake (‘tis the season!) I had eaten about two hours before our dinner date which impeded my intake of everything hachis Parmentier. (Dumb me!)


The dish was not overly rich, like so many of these pies heavily ladened with too much meat, but this was the best hachis I could recall (last having eaten it about 15 years ago in Ireland), very hot (temperature; not spicy, praise the kitchen!) which took a few moments to cool. (Option: Add a few ice cubes sur la table.)

La Cote d’Or is a classic French bistro located in Arlington. Pictured here is hachis Parmentier, a dish similar to shepherd’s pie with beef, mashed potatoes and various cheeses. (Photo: Patricia Leslie).


Mary’s Toulouse sausage was accompanied by cannellini beans mixed in a Bordelaise sauce, her entree she deemed hearty, tasty and was able to finish.


Completing our meal was the last but not the least selection, dessert, and how could anyone resist a “floating island”? It was a light and airy concoction with toasted almonds, vanilla sauce, and caramel which nicely complemented the meal, leaving us pleasantly satisfied without a heavy, gloating physical sensation as if we had just eaten coconut cake.

Pictured here is the “floating island” dessert, a light and airy dish with almonds, caramel and vanilla sauce. (Photo: Patricia Leslie).


The night we dined at LCD, the service matched the food with a wait staff devoted to every guest and smallest details. I had the impression of a possessive crew, keenly interested in customer satisfaction and the restaurant’s reputation, all which contribute to success.


Imperator took over the restaurant almost six years ago, keeping the original name which he is changing to “LCD.” Besides, it is not a cafe, he said, which I confirmed and had found confusing. The chef explained French restaurant differences, from bistros, brasseries, cafes, and more. (LCD is more like a bistro.)


At LCD, he has modernized the interior, removed tablecloths, updated the bar, the menu, and his wait staff’s apparel.
“The food was pretty square,” he sighs, and “the crowd was older. It’s taken me years to turn it around” which he has done by often changing the menu and offering a variety of choices, but still, there’s no escape from “oldies, but goodies.”


Those would be onion soup, beef bourguignon, and coq au vin which customers like and he keeps. “I am pretty creative,” he smiles: “That’s what a French chef is.”


Reproductions by Vincent van Gogh and pieces of art from Burgundy hang on brightly colored walls, the effects which lessen wintertime’s darkness and where guests, in imaginary scenes, become part of the art.


The restaurant’s translated name means “golden coast,” reflecting the beautiful fall colors found in Burgundy in September when evening falls, Imperato says.


His lineage includes French, Italian, and Spanish heritage. He was born in Nigeria and moved with his family to Germany when he was a toddler. At age 10, his family settled in France where he later studied culinary arts and gained restaurant experience before coming to the U.S. 40 years ago where he’s been involved in area restaurants since. He tried the business in D.C. (“it’s not for me”), but Northern Virginia is where his reputation for pristine passion for his food and guests have taken root.


Whether your taste buds are aflame and your mind takes you to LCD’s fete, a fast ride on Santa’s sleigh is necessary since, at press time, the only reservations open for New Year’s Eve were at mid-afternoon.


Look at it this way: More time to work off calories and go dancing, and there’s always next year. As Robert Burns used to say in 1788: “And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! And surely I’ll buy mine!…And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.”


The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm. and 5:30 – 9 p.m. every day except Monday and lunch on Tuesday. 6876 Langston Boulevard (formerly Lee Highway), Arlington 22213, at the corner of North Westmoreland, at the Falls Church City line, ph. (703) 538-3033, [email protected]

This article is part of the “Restaurant Spotlight” series, which will feature one local restaurant and its menu each month. To suggest that your restaurant be covered, contact Amanda Snead, News Editor at [email protected]